Monday, January 13, 2014

Expat Experiences: Feeling at home in the Netherlands

Sometimes during summer days the sun would shine brightly and temperatures would soar up to 30ºC. Everyone would be out on the streets, every café terrace would be crowded, small boats and water scooters would sail smoothly along the river and the parks would be full of people soaking up some sunrays. Even I would take a blanket and a book and head to the nearest park to lounge under the sun for a while. That was the good life in the Netherlands and I loved it. It was probably during one of those hot summer days that I realize I truly felt at home in Maastricht, and even though it was not meant to last forever, it was just perfect for the moment. Sometimes during winter days temperatures would drop somewhere in the negative side of the scale and it would snow for days but it was all the same for me. My feelings wouldn't change. I loved that city and my life there and even if it was not meant to last forever, it was just perfect for the moment.

Feels like coming home ...

Last week I took some time to reflect on my first moments in Antwerp, as part of the Expat Experiences link-up hosted by Molly of The Move to America and today I'm moving further to the Netherlands. The prompt for this week is Feeling At Home and this immediately called for some Maastricht love. I moved to Maastricht in August 2011 and lived there for two years, though the plan was to stay only for a year. Despite some initial frustration, I quickly settled in and slowly but steadily that small town in the south of the Netherlands won me over. I fell in love with Maastricht, cherished every day I spent there and have many fond memories of the two years I lived there - you can find some of them in this blog, like the recap of my first yeat in Maastricht or the bittersweet moment in which we said goodbye.

Of course, there were also low moments and small Dutch things that could drive me totally mad. Like the supermarket not giving me my one-cent or two-cents coins back - excuse me, but that's stealing and if you're not giving me my cents back then price products at 1€ and not at 0.99€ . Or the way Dutch people tend to pay everything by card and expect you to do so - something I got used to at an alarmingly quick pace. Or my biggest pet peeve, the many blue envelopes from the tax office that appeared in my mailbox regularly - and still appear on my Swiss mailbox - to communicate the silliest things ever, like sending a letter to state that they will send you a letter a week later with a form to fill in - can't you just send me my long-awaited form, please? But even then it was a pleasure to live in Maastricht and do I miss it!

I think one of the reasons why I felt so at home there was because I found the perfect apartment, the one I dreamt of for years. I had fantasied about my perfect home for ages and it suddenly came to life in Maastricht, a cosy studio with a built-in kitchen, a lounge area and a chic bathroom. With rustic wooden floors and three big windows that let the sun in all day long. Yes, I think the key to start feeling at home is having the right home. And maybe these other tips will help as well.

Make yourself comfortable in your new place - my appartment in Maastricht was already furnished and I liked it so much that I needn't change anything, as I said it was the perfect appartment. But adding some personal details to your new place will always help you to feel more at home.

Explore your new surroundings as much as possible - you might start looking at your new city through the eyes of a tourist but hopefully you'll see it soon in a new light and discover your favourite café, your favourite shop and even your favourite bench in the park.

Do as the locals do - they've been there for longer than you and they probably know a thing or two about enjoying their city. If you see them packing fresh fruit on a hot spring day and heading to river to lounge under the sun, it might actually be the thing to do on an otherwise dull Sunday.


The Move to America

Any other tip you would like to add? Some expat experiences to share? Then jump in and join The Move to America in this link-up series.

Have a lovely Monday!

10 comments:

  1. Una foto muy bonita de Maastricht; incluso con nieve se ve una ciudad preciosa( aunque seguro qeu es mucho mejor en verano por lo que cuentas) Bss, Irene:)

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    1. jejeje la verdad que no podría elegir cual estación era mejor en Maastricht. Siempre se podía disfrutar de alguna manera y encontrar rincones bonitos :)

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  2. Thank you so much for joining in with my January linky - I loved reading this post especially the tip about doing what the locals do. Really great advice/experience to share!

    Molly @ The Move to America

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    1. Thank you for hosting the linkup - I'm really enjoying writing about these topics and sharing my past experiences :)

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  3. I've never had that experience, but I would definitely follow the tips you're giving Irene. Everyone has their own way of handling things. I bet it's truly an experience. HaHaHa You have to kind of throw away what you're use to doing and learn some new ways of dealing with things. Great post.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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    1. You're so right about having o learn new ways of dealing with things. Even within western Europe there can be huge differences among countries and it can be difficult to get used to these new things. For me, one of the most difficult things to adjust to when I first moved abroad was the restricted opening hours of supermarkets and shops. In Spain they are usually open from 9am to 9pm or longer and in Belgium everything shut at 6pm the latest - only supermarkets in the outskirts remained open for longer!

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  4. I'm so glad to have witnessed, if not entirely how you have explored Maastricht and fell in love with it here in your blog. I remember your sadness when you had to say goodbye. It makes me think of how uncertain life can be, we never know how long we'll really stay in a place and when it's time to say goodbye, I just can't imagine it, but I'm sure we will eventually have to.

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    1. I guess that's the case most of the time when you are living in a country foreign to both of you. I wonder where life will take you to, if you're ever to leave Dubai! I'm also glad to somehow take part in your expat experience there, it is such a different country that reading your stories can be really eye-opening.

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  5. Your 'do as the locals do' is such a great tip, I learn a lot about Canadian life by watching what the locals do. #ExpatLinkUp

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  6. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing your tips! In Germany I usually pay small amount cash but in America people always use their cards and I had to get used to that first!

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